Chicago Cab Drivers Mourn Slain Driver, Seek Protections

by Dave Kreisman  |  January 23, 2015

Chicago Cab Drivers Mourn Slain Driver, Seek Protections A Cab Drivers United member donates money to Mr. Madu's family in order to support them and help cover funeral costs.

CHICAGO – Mourning the Jan. 8 shooting death of driver Chinedu Madu, Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31 raised money to help with funeral costs, and to support his widow and young son, while urging the city to implement reforms to protect the wellbeing of Chicago’s 12,000 cab drivers.

“Every single day we head out onto the road, we provide millions of Chicagoans a vital service, but we’re also prime targets for violent crime,” said David Adenenkan, a Cab Drivers United member. “Today we come together to remember brother Chinedu Madu, a fellow driver tragically murdered on the job.”

Adenenkan spoke at a brief memorial at O’Hare Airport. The drivers also held a memorial at Midway Airport, with Madu’s family present for both memorials.

“We not only raised over $3,000 so far, but we talked about needed reforms to ensure each and every one of us make it home safely to our families at the end of a shift,” said Cheryl Regina Miller, a longtime Chicago cab driver who spoke at the Midway Airport memorial. “Drivers have rights for compensation under Illinois’ workers’ compensation system, but we aren’t taught that in the training we go through to become cab drivers.”

Cab drivers are 20 times more likely to be murdered on the job than other workers, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The murder rate for all workers was 0.5 per 100,000 between 1998 and 2007, but for cab drivers the murder rate ranged from 9 per 100,000 to 19.

“The City of Chicago needs to take a long look at what’s being done to protect the health and wellbeing of cab drivers, and take proactive steps to prevent another tragedy like the one that’s fallen on the Madu family. We are sitting ducks out there,” Adenenkan said.

Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31 will hold a safety training Feb. 11 with health and safety experts, and workers’ compensation attorneys, to educate cab drivers on their rights and to develop solutions to the epidemic plaguing cab drivers across the country.

As the task force continues its review, Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31 will continue to build public support in the community for the drivers’ right to fair rules and due process.

Caution! Man at Work for You

by Kevin Zapf Hanes  |  January 22, 2015

Caution! Man at Work for You Lance Whiteside, Ernest Schreiber, Stewart Ferguson and Charles Jackson. Local 3033, Dauphin County, PennDOT. Photo courtesy of AFSCME Council 13

Pennsylvania snowplow driver Stewart Ferguson first realized how important his job was during the blizzard of 1992-93, when he was able to clear a path for an ambulance carrying a woman who needed heart surgery. It was one of his first assignments, a life-or-death situation.

“Front Street in Harrisburg had three feet of snow,” Ferguson recalled. “We got her there safely.”

Everyone knows what the yellow PennDOT snowplow looks like, but all too often people ignore it, actually putting the snowplow drivers and themselves at risk, Ferguson said. “I’m focused on clearing the road. It’s dangerous when a driver passes me. Give me a break – and I’ll get you to your destination safely.”

Ferguson loves his job because he is able to help people get to their destinations – not only by clearing the roads in winter, but also by repairing them during such natural disasters as floods. “Two or three years ago, when the flood happened, we had to have a road replaced in Hershey. We did it in record time, so people could get back to work,” he explained.

“My job is important because I help move the public around safely,” said Ferguson. “I have been doing this for over 23 years and I will continue to do it because I love what I do.”

AFSCME Accepting Applications for 2015 Women’s Leadership Academy

by Lee Saunders and Laura Reyes  |  January 22, 2015

AFSCME Accepting Applications for 2015 Women’s Leadership Academy

Across the nation, AFSCME women are leading the charge to create change for working families. Women leaders know that to accomplish our goals we must actively recruit new members and engage other members to join us, fight for the issues that matter most to us at the bargaining table and in state legislatures, and lift up the voices and stories of AFSCME members to promote the value of public services. 

That’s why we are excited to announce the 2015 AFSCME Women’s Leadership Academy, to be held from June to December of this year. The Academy, designed for women officers or activists at the local union level, prepares AFSCME women for future leadership roles in our union. Below are the requirements for participation in the Academy and a web address for the Academy application.

This six-month Academy will include:

  • A five-day orientation session on June 22-26, 2015, and a three-day closing session in December.
  • Completion of a local or council campaign project.
  • Frequent contact through social media and webinars.

The national union will pay travel costs, overnight accommodations (double occupancy), and meals for all formal sessions.  Participants or affiliates are expected to cover any release time or lost wages.

Applicants must demonstrate:

  • Commitment to our 2015 priorities and to build AFSCME during the next decade.
  • Support from their AFSCME local or council.
  • Engagement in activities supporting Power to Win goals, for example: organizing new members or increasing member involvement, political action/PEOPLE recruitment, community allies work.

Application/Selection Process:

  • Complete the online application here.
  • Applications and letter of support must be received by Saturday, March 7, 2015.
  • The scanned letter of support may be e-mailed to
  • The letter of support may be mailed to: AFSCME Education Department, Attn: WLA, 1625 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036.
  • Following review and selection, applicants will be notified by Friday, April 10, 2015.

We hope you take advantage of this powerful opportunity to help build our union.

Lee Saunders is the president of AFSCME. Laura Reyes is its secretary-treasurer.


California Caregivers Keep Fighting for Fair Pay

by Olivia Sandbothe  |  January 21, 2015

California Caregivers Keep Fighting for Fair Pay

With a new legislative session underway in Sacramento, California’s home care providers are fighting for fair pay on two fronts.

The members of UDW/AFSCME Local 3930 battled for the past several years to restore a 7 percent cut to the hours of care that home care recipients can get through the state’s In-Home Supportive Services program (IHSS). At the same time, on the national front, they joined home care providers across the country to fight for the same minimum wage and overtime protections that other workers have enjoyed since 1938. 

That hard work is paying off at the state level.  On Jan. 9, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a budget that restores funding to IHSS. The proposal comes after a year of strong advocacy by UDW members. Not only did they build support for IHSS funding, they also managed to secure a promise of overtime compensation.

For the first time ever, IHSS caregivers who work more than 40 hours in a week would be paid time-and-a-half. In addition, the state was scheduled to start compensating caregivers for the time they spend traveling and accompanying clients to doctors’ appointments.

However, the national fight for overtime protections hit a bump, and it is felt in California. On Jan. 15, the state Department of Social Services announced that it was backtracking on overtime pay, citing a recent federal court ruling that overturned the Department of Labor’s wage rules for home care providers.

The federal ruling does not prohibit the state of California from providing overtime, however, and UDW members say they won’t stop fighting until the state recognizes the sacrifices they make to provide quality services. They are urging supporters to sign this petition.

“Physically and mentally, this ruling hurts,” said Susana Saldana of Merced, a home care provider to her 28-year-old son who has physical and mental disabilities. “We aren’t at home relaxing and being companions. We work hard.”

“A lot of us are disappointed,” she added. “I thought I could do a lot more for my son, like taking him to the dentist and having his teeth cleaned.”

Home care providers work hard to make sure that seniors and people with disabilities have the option to live independently in their own homes. The decision to deny them a living wage hurts the thousands of people who rely on their care. 

Independent Board Backs Chicago Taxi Reforms

by Dave Kreisman  |  January 21, 2015

Independent Board Backs Chicago Taxi Reforms Professor Robert Bruno, Workers Rights Board Chair

CHICAGO – A new report released by an independent panel of experts from across Chicago finds the present taxi system in dire need of reform.

The Workers Rights Board, chaired by Professor Robert Bruno from the School of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, released its findings from hearings last year, including recommendations for changing how the City of Chicago oversees the taxi industry that millions depend on.

“While reports have documented many taxi driver concerns about trying to earn a living in this very difficult industry, one of the most prominent sources of grievances was how a number of city agencies enforce the rules governing the terms and conditions of taxi service,” Bruno said. “The system the city has established to administer tickets, fines and licensure threats on drivers is at the root of escalating collective worker anger, and we believe it is in need of system change.”

Tracey Abman, associate director of Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31, added that Chicago cab drivers are subject to a second layer of regulations that deny them the same due process protections enjoyed by rideshare drivers and the public at large.

“The problems detailed in this report have been exacerbated by the influx of rideshare companies,” Abman said. “The City of Chicago has created a set of harsh, unjust rules for cab drivers while allowing rideshare drivers to provide the same service under a separate, unequal unsafe system.

 “Rideshare drivers who are cited go to the county court system where they have due process rights, where a witness against them must come forward in open court and are subjected to cross-examination,” she added. “Cab drivers are sent to a separate court, where the rules are arbitrary and opaque, where complainants are not required to be present or reveal their identity, and where city prosecutors routinely threaten drivers into forgoing their right to a hearing.”

In December, the City Council approved the Taxi Driver Fairness Ordinance, which required the city to establish a task force to review the rules that taxi drivers operate under and to make proposals for change, “with a view toward fairness on how taxicab drivers are regulated.”

As the task force continues its review, Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31 will continue to build public support in the community for the drivers’ right to fair rules and due process.

Confronting the Legacy of ‘Dark Money’

by Clyde Weiss  |  January 21, 2015

Confronting the Legacy of ‘Dark Money’

Unlimited, secret spending by corporations is the sad legacy of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision known as Citizens United. Today, on the fifth anniversary of the 5-4 ruling, our political system is awash in a flood of money that has increased the power of big business to influence elections.

The ruling allowed corporations and other interest groups to spend unlimited funds on advertisements supporting or opposing candidates for federal office. They only had to ensure those ads were made independently of the campaigns they support.

The day the court handed down Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, President Obama issued a statement calling it “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

How much corporate money ends up paying for campaign ads is not required to be disclosed publicly. This so-called “dark money” flows into elections through “conduit” organizations such as Freedom Partners, backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, responsible for about 1 in 4 dollars of the total “dark money” spent in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

A whopping 38 percent of political ads aired in House, Senate and gubernatorial races since the start of the 2013-14 election cycle was paid for with “dark money,” according to an analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project and the Center for Responsive Politics. This means voters don’t have the information they need to understand who is trying to influence their vote.

Efforts to overturn Citizens United are underway, and AFSCME will work with our allies to close the floodgates of dark money. Our democracy depends on it.

Eyes Wide Shut: When Governments Outsource with No Accountability

by Pablo Ros  |  January 16, 2015

Eyes Wide Shut: When Governments Outsource with No Accountability

Imagine that you hire a home improvement company to remodel your home. Would you sign on the dotted line and take out your checkbook unless it was absolutely clear to both you and the contractor what the work entailed and how much it would cost?

Unfortunately, that’s what many states and localities do, sign contracts with private companies and commit millions in taxpayer money without setting clear expectations of the contractor regarding the work involved and the time frame for completion.

Examples abound, according to a new report from In the Public Interest, a comprehensive resource center on privatization and responsible contracting.

“Problems with contract oversight are pervasive,” the report states. “These problems occur in cities and states across the country and across all sectors of government, including health and human services, criminal justice, information technology, education, public works, and more.”

The authors of the report identify five problems with contract oversight and issue recommendations for fixing them. The recommendations include:

• Incorporate oversight costs into any decision to outsource.

• Include clear performance standards and penalties for noncompliance in the request for proposals and contract.

• Provide adequate resources, including staff, training and funding, to oversee every contract.

• Do not outsource contract oversight.

The best bang for a taxpayer’s buck is still in the public sector, where dedicated public workers serve their communities with pride. But if a local or state government decides it must outsource, then the contracting must be done responsibly. This report offers useful guidelines for outsourcing in a responsible way.

Read the full report here.  

Halt! South Carolina Orders Curb Uber

by Clyde Weiss  |  January 16, 2015

Halt! South Carolina Orders Curb Uber Photo Credit: The Daily Beast

The ride-sharing company Uber is under orders by the South Carolina Public Service Commission to “cease and desist” operations pending a hearing later this month. Seems the company has been operating without the proper paperwork.

Uber Technologies has been operating in the state since last July, yet neither the company, its affiliates, “nor any of its network partner drivers have obtained a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity prior to operating, as required” by state law, according to the cease-and-desist directive of Jan. 15.

While the company filed a petition for a certificate, a scheduled Jan. 26 hearing was suspended while various issues are investigated. “Consumers benefit from, and deserve choices in, the marketplace,” the Public Service Commission said in its directive. “However, those choices must be consistent with state law intended to protect the public.”

AFSCME has called on government agencies to require Uber to operate legally, so that it competes fairly with licensed taxi drivers, like those in Chicago and New Orleans who organized with AFSCME and want to work within the system to improve it.

In Chicago, for instance, the City Council recently approved reforms sought by the drivers that will provide a better life for them while improving services for riders. In New Orleans, they’re working within the system to fight back against unfair city regulations.

County Wastes Money Instead of Closing a Deal

by Kevin Brown  |  January 16, 2015

County Wastes Money Instead of Closing a Deal

After public safety workers in Hidalgo County, New Mexico, formed their own union in 2013 and contract negotiations began, county officials had two choices: to negotiate in good faith or to make the process as hard as possible for the cops, dispatchers and corrections officers who proudly serve their communities every day.

Their choice fell to the latter. In fact, county officials seem intent on wasting taxpayer money to stonewall the workers, members of Local 808. They hired high-paid consultants to delay the negotiations and already wasted $50,000 of taxpayer money on the consultants, more than the cost of doing the right thing to settle the workers’ first contract.

“For more than a year, Hidalgo County has been fighting the union on financial compensation for public safety personnel,” said Connie Derr, AFSCME Council 18 executive director. “The cost for these high-paid consultants to stonewall the workers is costing the county more than it would to settle the contract.”

Negotiations continued into the New Year and an agreement is nowhere in sight. This may not be surprising, given that the paid consultants have no incentive to bring the process to an end. Who wouldn’t want to continue to collect $150 an hour?

“AFSCME demands that these public safety workers who patrol your streets, maintain order in the jail and dispatch 911 calls be treated with the respect and dignity that their responsibilities deserve,” Derr said. “We are here to work with the county in an effort to end the downward trend of employees leaving the county and public service.”

City Workers Donate Settlement to Senior Center

by Pablo Ros  |  January 15, 2015

City Workers Donate Settlement to Senior Center Photog credit: Patricia Gay/Weston Forum

Last year, members of AFSCME Local 1303-041, Council 4, in Weston, Connecticut, filed unfair labor practices against the city after it assigned bargaining unit work at the Weston Transfer Station to seasonal workers who were not members of the union, in violation of the contract.

All along they said the issue was never about the money.

“We believed this was work that should have been assigned to bargaining unit members,” said Local 1303-041 Pres. Al Blizzard.

Their determination paid off and this month the local won their case. And, in the spirit in which they waged their fight, the 11 members of the local agreed to donate the proceeds from their settlement to the Friends of the Weston Senior Activities Center.

President Blizzard said they chose the Senior Center because the needs of the elderly are often overlooked.

“It’s not only in Weston, but across America,” he said. “People tend to overlook the seniors when making charitable donations. Hopefully this will shine some light on this area of need in our society. We’re all going to be seniors someday, and we’ll need the valuable resources these centers offer.”

The total amount donated to the Senior Center was $2,780. A smaller amount was given to the Calvary Evangelical Church in Trumbull.

Had the AFSCME members elected to keep the money, they would each have received $363.64, not an insignificant amount. But giving is its own reward. Congratulations to our sisters and brothers of Local 1303-041.


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